Why be modest? Predicting the future is easy.
There’s something in human nature that loves to believe there’s a Grand Plan, a fixed order in the universe that if only we can uncover we will know what awaits. The human brain hates uncertainty and ambiguity. We want simple stories and easy promises.
The New Year is a time not only for regrets about how much we’ve eaten over the holidays and for empty promises about being better next year, but it’s also a time for prophesy. Tech folk prophesy gadgets to come, historians predict social upheaval, and over-sugared children foretell tears before bedtime.
Who doesn’t love a good prophesy?
And so, step forward the age-old figure of the Sooth-Sayer.
This person, or (if sufficiently lost to history) civilization, becomes renowned for their amazing (no, really, amazing!!) ability to predict events hundreds or even thousands of years into the future.
While the more reasonable among us might wonder, “How could anyone living in a time when they didn’t even know enough to boil water before drinking, or to wash their hands before touching food, have the ability to foresee events in a future that would be totally beyond their comprehension?” we must reply Pish and Pshaw. We must cast aside any semblance of reason and enter a world of pure ignorant credulity. For when we know practically nothing whatsoever, we are liberated to believe anything at all.
Having thus entered a world of complete naïveté we can now summon the spirit of Nostradamus, who informs us thus (albeit in a somewhat clumsy translation):
“The heavenly dart will stretch its course / Death in the speaking, a great achievement / The proud nation brought low by the stone in the tree / Rumours of a monstrous human, bring purge, then expiation.”
Well, obviously, this can only mean the greatest war crime in history: the nuclear bombs dropped by the USA onto unarmed civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Or, perhaps, it could in fact mean anything at all and therefore nothing at all. But for some reason a great many people convince themselves it must be a stunningly accurate predication.